At least in public, Democrats and Republicans are both playing annoying, cynical politics with efforts to provide reasonably predictable health care for people with serious health problems.
Rep. Joe Pitts, R-Pa., chairman of the House Energy and Commerce health subcommittee, continued the cycle of partisan hair-pulling by introducing H.R. 1549, the Wrap Help Sick for Americans in Democratic Poison Act bill, a week ago.
The bill would perform the noble, admirable service of keeping the Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plan (PCIP) application process open until Dec. 31 by taking a cash away from the discretionary fund that U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is trying to use to get the new Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) health insurance exchanges up and running.
PCIP (pronounced “P-sip”) is an ill-fated PPACA risk pool program for uninsured people with health problems.
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Even though PCIP let people with AIDS and cancer pay the same premiums healthy people pay for medical coverage, it enrolled fewer uninsurable people than expected; spent astronomical sums (an average of $225,000 per year) on the claims of the sickest 4.4 percent of the people who did enroll; let its dog eat the forms submitted by agents seeking the $100 PCIP enrollment incentive fee; and probably had other problems the U.S. Government Accountability Office will tell us about later.
But the program did give “uninsurable people” and their providers the sense that they had some kind of insurance that eventually would pay a reasonably high percentage of eligible claims. (Any program that was paying $225,000 per year in claims for 4.4 percent of its insureds must have been paying a significant number of claims.)
The program freed uninsured sick people from trying to raise money for $300,000 operations by competing to be cute enough or tragic enough to inspire providers to donate care, or to inspire friends and strangers to organize successful highly successful bake sales.
PCIP was supposed to be taking applications until Jan. 1, 2014, when PPACA is set to eliminate insurers’ use of personal health information in decisions about whether to issue coverage, and sharply restrict use of personal health information in pricing,
Officials at the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight (CCIIO) suddenly shut the federal program down during a conference call in February, and required managers of state-run PCIP programs to shut off their application processes by March 2.